With drivers theoretically relieved from the duty of actually having to drive the car, they can now spend time figuring out what "Zoox" actually means. The start-up unveiled its concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November and is now ready to reveal a few more details about its utopian mission of autonomous vehicles on its website.

There are no Zoox "drivers," only "commanders" (very Star Trek)

Zoox refers to itself as a "Level 4 mobility company," defining Level 0 as a fully manually-driven car and Level 4 as "tilt your martinis, we're not driving this thing" autonomy. In fact, there are no Zoox "drivers," only "commanders" (very Star Trek) to give the car basic directions. From there on out, you have a totally different type of vehicle experience. The teardrop-shaped car can be fully symmetrical because there's no driving being done. Electric motors behind each of the four wheels make the car "bi-directional" (there's technically no "reverse"), four seats that face each other make the ride social, and carbon composites keep the vehicle light. The car is all-wheel drive, has all-wheel suspension and is controlled by all-wheel active steering.

We don't know how much the vehicle will cost or how fast it will be but founder Tim Kentley-Klay tells Driving That Nation that he's met with Google. The company also says it's hiring engineers (here's guessing it'll need a lot of them) and that its cars will be on the road by 2021. And the first pedestrian who steps in front of one of those things to test its "360-degree machine vision" gets bonus points for being macho.

Autonomous driving is a topical subject for both its perceived safety and fuel-saving benefits. The state of Michigan was recently said to be on the verge of allowing for testing of autonomous vehicles on its roads, joining California, Florida and Nevada in that process. Last month, Nissan tested a self-driving all-electric Leaf on public roads in Japan. And last year, Volvo for the first time tested its "car train" concept, in which three remote-controlled Volvos drove behind a "leader" truck in Spain for a distance of more than 120 miles. The message? Zoox will have some serious competition in the self-driving sphere.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 9 Comments
      jack smith
      • 11 Months Ago
      This thing will make an absolutely spectacular lawsuit when something goes wrong, and by pure statistics it's bound to. Like an old pilot once told me, if you fly long enough, then you WILL crash. It doesn't matter how good of a pilot you may be, by the pure probability of something going wrong that you can't handle, you will eventually crash.
        mycommentemail
        • 11 Months Ago
        @jack smith
        That seems to me to be the biggest hurdle with self diving cars. The tech is moving along nicely and it is just a matter of time (and not even that much) before it is ready to be out on the roads. But the legal aspect of who is liable for an accident is still not clear. I suspect that that well be codified in law before these cars are unleashed (and the cars themselves will have seriously advanced black boxes along with the kinds of dash cams that would make the nsa jealous).
        Chris
        • 11 Months Ago
        @jack smith
        No doubt something can and will go wrong sooner or later resulting in a crash. However, these vehicles have to be proven safer than a human driver. If they can even cut the rate of deaths/fatalities we have now then they could become very valuable and practical.
          Chris
          • 11 Months Ago
          @Chris
          I meant cut in half the rate of deaths/fatalities.
      Bobby Robinson
      • 11 Months Ago
      Until artificial intelligence is cracked, I can't see totally autonomous cars like this on the road, without the ability of the driver/passenger to take control if something goes wrong. Well, at least I would not be willing to gamble with my life like that.
        Joeviocoe
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Bobby Robinson
        Artificial Intelligence is not something that can be "Cracked". It is a subtle progression of a more and more human-like ability to process information. In cars... rather than attempting to act human... the computer can process 3-dimensional surroundings much better than a human could.. and voice recognition is already capable of responding to the needed commands.
      throwback
      • 11 Months Ago
      Level 4 as "tilt your martinis, we're not driving this thing" autonomy. If you sitting in a car drinking martinis, shouldn't you be called a passenger?
      Dave D
      • 11 Months Ago
      I saw a poll where they got some really interesting responses: 1) given that there are currently about 40,000 deaths a year in the US on our roads, is this acceptable or should we force lower speed limits and more restrictions. The overwhelming response was that things were ok the way they were. 2) if we could automate this system and make it where nobody was driving and only 400 people were killed every year in traffic accidents, would this be acceptable? The answer was "NO", no traffic deaths were tolerable in an automated system. The author's conclusion was that people didn't trust machines so much that they "felt" more comfortable taking their chance with today's drivers than letting machines take over and cause even a single death. It's all about control. It's been a number of years and I'm trying to find that study again but no luck. If anyone else can find it, please post a link here. Perhaps things have changed now that people are more used to automated systems??? But the bottom line is that the tech isn't as much of a barrier as people's fears if you want to automate driving.
        Ryan
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Yup, people are pretty stupid like that. This company should just build this as a aerodynamic EV and be happy about it for the first few years. Then, introduce this on the highways (out west first), where automated driving would be easier to implement. Then in a decade or two, you will be able to have inner city automation.